THE 1-WEEK MOVIE: Budget $20,000-$50,000 (Learn the Tricks)

THE $20,000-$50,000 FEATURE FILM:

Producing and directing a feature film today is so affordable I always ask myself “Why aren’t more doing it?”


50, 40, 30 even 20 years ago the only format available to make a film was to buy, shoot and expose film stock, 35mm or 16mm, from Kodak/Fuji/Agva and rent a Panavision or Arriflex camera package with the minimum cost for film stock and lab alone was $50-100K for a low-budget film.

Plus, there was the fear of how to buy film stock; how to rent a complete camera package; how to load the film into magazines; how to place the magazine on the camera; how to shoot without being able to replay what you have just shot; how to wait 2 days to see the dailies, and the dailies are without sound…

Wow. I understand why so few ever produced or directed 20-plus years ago.

(“20 years ago buying 50,000′ of 35mm Film Stock, once exposed and developed, cost at least $50,000…“)

Today, if shooting on a 6:1 shooting ratio (6 minutes of raw film eventually become 1 minute in the final print), for a 90-minute narrative you no longer need to budget $50,000-$100,000 to purchase and print 50,000′ (9-hours) of 35mm film stock and can now shoot in the 4K digital format and have the same 9-hours of cost for only $200-300 bucks.

Thus, I beseech all first-timers to stop thinking low-budget is in the millions ($1-2M, $2-3M, etc.); adapt, get realistic and lower budgets to the thousands ($10-20K, $20-30K, $30-50K, etc.), shoot digital, see everything instantly, replay it, with sound, as many times as you want, do multiple takes, allow the actors to act (3rd Take is usually the “Golden Take”)  and start making low-budget movies with micro-budget dollars.

So let’s launch your career… Let’s think $20-30K… Not $1-2M… And, if you can’t get $20,000 then stop wasting time on F-Book or Linked-in, get a bloody job….Starbucks/Uber/Lime are hiring…

Get away from FortNite, don’t buy any skins; save $3K, get your 90-page script, do a presentation to a potential partner, with wealthy parents (sic), give away 50% equity, partner, have a co-producer and plan a 1-week shoot to make a movie… not a short… while displaying your talent and work ethic.

You say “$20K? That’s your $3K with your Co-Producer partner’s $17K… You say not possible.”

OK. Permit me to show you how.


(“With 90 pages, 1 apartment, minimal equipment, 4 actors, 1-week, with 3-4 days rehearsing, and a 6 person crew you’ll get a movie”.)

(Discover how-to do it step-by-step at

STEP 1: SCRIPT: 90-pages, typed properly (Final Draft, Celtx, Movie Magic, Writers Duet, etc.), 1-location (restaurant, bordello, courtroom, bookstore, re-union, apartment, etc) written close to “real time” (aka: What happened over 90-minutes) like “ROPE” or “2LDK” or “BURIED” or “DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED”.

To write the script go to Staples or Office Depot and buy 1,500 sheets (3 reams) of paper.

I hear that 1,500 pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper. Cost $15. Put it in your budget. 15 Bucks!

You now have $19,985 left!

Now, get the proper software program, probably Final Draft 11.0.

Cost $185.

Budget $20 to register (only$10 if you’re a member) your script with the WGA.

You now have $19,800 left!

Now spend $200 to get two independent readers ($100 each) to do “coverage” (2 page book report) and accept their opinion.

Do not argue… their opinion is their opinion.

And to be sure to get mature opinions, upon hiring them, do not say “You write the script”, take your name off the title page and say “You’re a Producer. Thinking about buying this script. What’s your opinion?”

You now have $19,600 left!

Now, spend $200 on Craigslist posting for independent script writers with great dialogue needed. Paying $500/week.

Verify what they’ve written to confirm that they have a gift of dialogue (this can’t be taught). Hire one of them for 2 weeks to punch-up your dialogue according to the opinions, if you accept them, of the 2 reader’s “coverage”.

You now have $18,600 left!

Spend another 2-3 weeks re-writing for a final Draft that included 3 drafts, 2 Coverages, and Dialogue Punch-up… for an additional $300 for paper and 3-4 lunches.

You now have $18,300 left!

Next, do a “table reading” with 6-8 actors to read entire script.

Rent a room, photo-copy the script 10 ten times, and give each actor $50 and a box lunch to read the 90-minute script three times all the way through.

This shouldn’t cost more than $500.

You now have $17,800 left!

Get a “shooter/videographer” ($300) with a DSL camera and numerous wireless mikes and record the “table reading”.

You now have $17,500 left!

Do one more re-write or polish with what you have just learned, spending $200 in the next 2-3 weeks and you now have the perfect script and $17,300 left!

STEP 2: CAST: You need 6-8 actors for 90-minutes.

Duh?! Cast On Monday-Tuesday, rehearse on Wednesday-Thursday, rehearse at the location on Friday, and shoot two weeks later, for 1-week, at the one-location you have secured for 1-week.

Hint: To secure that location for 1-week is to offer, besides nominal money, an Opening Title Credit of “Associate Producer” to the location’s owner… and yes he/she, the owner, probably has a son/daughter who would like to be part of the shoot as a Production Assistant.

(“There are 1,000s of actors searching & preying for their first Opening Title Credit opportunity… get the word out”)

(Discover how to find these actors at

The casting session and  3-4 Days of rehearsal with your actors should cost $1,500.

Ask any SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actor how much rehearsal time they get on some big-budget studio set and you will probably hear, “maybe 4-6 minutes, 10-12 minutes if we’re lucky”.

Well guess what you have just had, 3-4 amazing days of rehearsal.

Cost Casting, Lunch & Snacks for 1-week, paying actors $50-$100/day, again, is at the most $1,500.

You now have $15,800 left!

IMPORTANT POINT: What to pay actors and you’re not hiring “names”… you’re hiring up-and-coming talented thespians looking for credits and experience and a reel.

Stupid question!

What would you pay him/her if acting in your short?

Answer $0 with a credit, some experience and scene(s) for his/her reel.

OK. OK. OK. I advise to pay more than $0… For, what you’re offering up-and-coming actors, is an Opening Title Credit in a feature film, an opportunity to launch their career… This is ten times more valuable than a token $100 per day… but paying $100/day makes it a no-brainer to cast the up-and-coming stars.

By the way: No Joke “They should actually pay you”. They’re happy with (A) Food and (B) Credit. And, if they ask for money tell them “Go do a short”.

Okay, you’re a good guy and want to pay the actors. So pay them $50/day for rehearsal and $100/day for the shoot… Remember, it’s a 1-day shoot executed in close to real-time.

Budget $2,500 for the actors

You now, have about $13,300 left!

STEP 3: CAMERA: Rent 2 cameras (DSLRs, Black Magics, Reds?) for 1-week.

Usually your Cinematographer, a Camera Operator, who has yet to get a DP credit for a feature film, will likely own these and you can pay him/her $3,000 for the 1-week shoot, to include 1-week of “prep” and $1,000 to assist you as “post-production supervisor” to get your final DCP.

Cost is $3,000.

If your DP does not own REDs and you don’t want to shoot with DSLRs or Black Magics or 4k SmartPhones, then budget $3,000 more for the 1-week 2 Red equipment rental.

You now have about $10,300 left!

STEP 3A: CAMERA (repeated from above): This really gets me mad, for there is such an obsession by all first-timers, who never become a first-timer, trying to discover the “new camera”.

It’s a frickin’ camera! Get a 4K, or 3K or 5K Red, get a DSLR, or a “Black Magic” or a “Go Pro”…. possibly even a “Red”.

They all work. Just rent 2 for one-week.

Bottomline: Again, you are not shooting Film format (16mm or 35mm) you are shooting “Electronic format” and whether renting a Canon, Sony, JVC or Panasonic, or a Go Pro or a Black Magic, or whether you are renting by the format be it 5K, 4K, 3K, 2K, 1080i, 720P, DSLR… I don’t care.

Just rent 2 frickin’ cameras for 1-week …but make sure the lenses (aka “glass”) are superb and the mikes work.

STEP 4: LOCATION: Rent the location (Garage, House, Bar, Bookstore, Condo, Cabin, etc) for the week ($1,000)… and put aside a little extra money (five $100 bills) for when the location’s neighbors get tired of the novelty that a movie is shooting next door and complain about the inconvenience caused by your crew, their noise and their cars

Cost, at most, $1,500.

(“Kevin Smith’s first feature “CLERKS” was shot in a mom-and-pop 7-11/convenience store over a weekend”)

(To learn how to Write, Produce & Direct….

You now have $8,800 left!

STEP 5: REHEARSE: Rehearse for one-day at the location with wardrobe and makeup.

Cost $300 for snacks & food.

Cost $300 for wardrobe.

Cost $200 for 1-day makeup.

You now have $8,000 left!

STEP 6: SHOOT:  Sunday-to-Sunday (one-week), after the rehearsal, hire a Soundman for $1,000/week, a hair/makeup person for $700/week and a $700 shooter (someone to operate the 2nd camera) for the week.

Get Crew of 5 PAs, 2 Grips/Gaffer Best Boys at $400-500/week.

You’ve spent $4,400

You now have $3,600 left!

STEP 7: DIRECT: Sunday-Sunday (7 day shoot, 90-page script, shooting schedule 12-13 pages/day), now get 1 page directed every hour (Master Shots) tell the cameraman to load the camera (8-16GB Flash Cards), point at the actors, use a wide angle lens, make sure sound is great; say “Quiet on The Set”, wait 1-minute; say “Action”, let the actor(s) act, wait 5 more seconds and say “Cut”.

With expendables costing $500, (batteries, filters, gels, etc.) you now have your movie (A) shot and (B) in-the-can for $3,100.

Yes, you have money left for Post.

STEP 8: POST-PRODUCTION: Now do the Edit(s) and get to your DCP.

Budget $3K for the 5-8 steps of Post-Production… Why? Cause that’s all you have.

(1st) Picture Edit, (2nd) Sound Edit, (3rd) ADR, (4th) Foley, (5th) Music, (6th) Lab Work (Digitizing, Color Correcting, etc) and get your final output (7th) called a DCP.

To do this you, with the help of your Cinematographer, who you budgeted $1K for, will make deferral deals with a Picture Editor, a Sound Editor, a Music Composer and a Lab.

To sweeten the deferral deals (monies owed), you might also offer “points” (aka: percentage of profits, if any)… But never offer equity/ownership.

STEP 9: VOILLA! You have a movie. It ain’t perfect…but it’s a movie… You’re one-the-road; you’re a doer and you will get much more bang-for-buck at festivals with your under-the-radar Movie than with a Short.

You, however, will need about $5,000 more (Co-Producer’s parents) for marketing with Social Media (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc) announcing that the next “Blair Witch” or “Paranormal Activity”  or “pi” or “Clerks” is here.

(“TANGERINE”, a Sundance hit, premiered in 2016 and was shot in real-time with 2 iPhones”)


Yeah, yeah, yeah… It ain’t gonna be that simple or that cheap.

You can nit-pick me to death with “How about this” and “How about that” and talk insurance, props, wardrobe, hard drive, music, food, SAG, etc.

Bitch and moan and try to figure out how to do it perfect. And I guarantee you that you’ll never get anything done.

Have fun, be smart…it’s only $20,000… And “yes, it will cost maybe $10-15K more…

And now just imagine if you had $50,000.

“CLERKS, “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY”, “BLAIR WITCH”, “PI”, etc… were all shot-for (sic. “shot for”) $20,000… I think you get the point.

The world is for doers and you have just made your first “Micro-Budget” feature film be it a $3K, $10K, $20K or $50K budget.

Whichever budget, you are, “Under-the-Radar”, you cannot be criticized…and way above anyone who is sending me a short, a trailer, a poster with a request for an “elevator pitch” and an introduction to an agent.

Now just imagine what you will do on your second feature with $100-$200K, being able to afford a 12-15 person crew, 2 cameras (REDs), a 5-ton grip/gaffing truck, SAG actors, craft service, a more expansive script and a 2-week shoot, with a shooting schedule of only 6-7 pages/day, with $30-50K left for post/score/lab.

You’re moving up the Hollywood ladder

Dov Simens


Why wait? Want to Produce, Write, Direct?  Want facts… not theory?

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7 comments on “THE 1-WEEK MOVIE: Budget $20,000-$50,000 (Learn the Tricks)”

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    Where is crew?

  2. Liyanda Motloung says:

    is this possible though?yes it is….

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